With the winter months in full swing it's time to spend a few days getting your home and garden into the best shape possible.
Start with indoor chores
Check the boiler
Get your boiler serviced by a qualified engineer. Yes, it’s boring but it’s also vital if you’re going to have a reliably warm home and hot water this winter.
Have the chimney swept by a professional, who should also check your flue. Go to the National Association of Chimney Sweeps www.nacs.org.uk to find one in your area.
Order logs and coal
Order logs and coal, and store outside, within easy reach of the house, in a cool, dry place.
Check door and window seals
Check putty and seals around all doors and windows and fill any gaps with caulk. Check for any signs of damp as this could indicate that the sealant on the outside is failing.
If you have big, draughty windows, consider adding temporary insulation with economical double-glazing film (from hardware stores or online), which can be sealed with a hair dryer and easily removed in the spring.
Turn over mattresses and wash mattress protectors. Replace summer duvets with winter-weight ones, or add an extra throw at the foot of the bed for cold nights.
Clean windows inside and out, to maximise light during the gloomy winter months.
Check alarm batteries
Replace batteries on smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.
Conserve energy by checking attic insulation and padding any exposed pipes – hardware and DIY stores sell foam pipe sleeves that can be cut to fit.
Inspect the loft
Check for signs of damp, particularly in areas where the roof slope changes such as ridges and valleys of the roof, around chimneys, and on brickwork to gable ends. Darker patches, water staining and white streaks of powdery residue could indicate that rainwater has been entering the roof space. While up there, turn off the torch and if daylight can be seen coming through any part of the roof then there is a problem.
Safeguard your pipes
Make sure that water tanks and pipes are lagged (insulated) and replace any lagging that has slipped over time. Locate the mains water stop cock (usually under the kitchen sink) and make sure it can be turned on and off easily – if a pipe burst in the house, this would probably be the first thing to turn off.
Then take yourself outdoors
An overflowing gutter can cause lots of damp problems over time if not addressed. Clean the gutters and downpipes and remove leaves and other debris. Check for leaks and make sure downpipes lead straight into drains and soakaways. Also check that sections of gutter haven't come apart and that all the fixing brackets are intact and securely attached to the fascia board.
Maintain garden paths and drives by filling in cracks before the frost can make them bigger.
Check outdoor lighting
Make sure outside lights are working. Low-energy lightbulbs will mean they don’t cost much to leave on when it’s dark outside.
Check tree branches
Inspect trees near the house and remove any branches that might hit power lines or the roof in a gale.
Related: what to do about a neighbour's overhanging tree.
Replace missing roof tiles
Ask a roofer to check out the roof and replace missing or cracked slates or tiles. The most vulnerable areas of a roof to storm are where the wind is forced to change direction - these are normally the 'edges' of the roof, such as ridges, hips and verges.
Inspect outside walls
General check for all walls: inspect brickwork for any cracks and wear (mortar falling out etc); cladding for any defects, rendering for cracks and signs of coming away from wall, tile hanging for slipped or broken tiles and any signs that gutters or downpipes have been leaking (damp marks, mould etc.)
Tend to flat roofs
Flat roofs made from bituminous felt need regular checking as they are prone to leaks and water damage. Things to check for are cracks, heat bubbles, pooling water, de-lamination and joints between the flat roof and walls. You may also want to ensure that the stone chippings (where relevant) have not become displaced as this can expose the felt to the elements, leading to damage. The general life expectancy of a felt flat roof is 10 years.
Keep a shovel handy
Put a shovel within easy reach of the front door, so you can reach it to clear snow and ice from paths and drives.
Finally, tackle the garden
Tend to hoses and taps
Drain garden hoses and disconnect from outside taps. Insulate taps with bubblewrap and put hoses away, neatly coiled, in the shed.
Prune bushes, shrubs and flowers and plant bulbs ready for spring.
Mulch the soil
Mulch bare soil with garden compost or leaf mould, bark or Strulch (organic chopped straw).
Store fragile pots
Make sure any pots that are not frost proof are stored away.
Tend to the lawn
Mow the lawn on a high setting, then apply fertiliser to the grass. Find out more about caring for your lawn in autumn.
Protect outdoor furniture
Clean and put away outdoor furniture or, if space is short, buy a waterproof cover for it.
Tidy garage and sheds
Tidy your garden shed and the garage, and take anything that you haven’t used for a year to the dump. Remember, they can recycle old paint as well as glass, metal and other household and garden waste.
Find out how some simple changes to your interior can make your home feel cosier.
For information on making a home insurance claim, please see Saga Home Insurance Policy Documentation and Claims.